“Clinical Depression: A mental health disorder characterised by persistently depressed mood or loss of interest in activities, causing significant impairment in daily life.”
“My name is Thandokazi Rooiland and I suffer from Clinical Depression.” I never thought the day would come when I would utter these words. Not me. Not the brave and strong woman that everybody knows. Not me. But sometimes, the strong break too.
A little background on myself, I am a middle-child at home, we are 3 girls. My parents never had a son, he died when he was a year old. Growing up, I became the son my dad never had. I did everything and anything to prove myself. I excelled at school and was a bookworm of note, I even became the first black Head girl in High School and became the Top Student. Everyone in my family counted and depended on me, up to a point where no decisions at home were taken without my opinion. I then went to varsity and was blessed with a full bursary to study Chemical Engineering. See, I was the perfect “son”, the perfect stronghold of the family. At 21, I was engaged and my life seemed perfect, I had it all together and figured out until life showed me flames… flames I was never ready for.
Life happened and I had my first child, to make up for that I had to get married and finish my B-tech to keep up with this perfect lifestyle, two years later, I had my second child and a broken engagement. No time to grieve, I picked up the pieces and played the strong and independent single mother. I started working as a Graduate-in-Training for the company that sponsored me. I was earning big money and could afford to rent a 3 bedroom house and a nanny. My financial stability was the only thing I could fall back on as I went back and forth in failed relationships, one after the other. Two years later, the only good thing I had going for me – my financial stability – fell apart. My contract ended and was not renewed and I ended up with a job that paid me half of what I was earning. Being the strong and independent woman that everybody knew me to be, I had a plan. I made a promise to myself and my kids that I would get myself out of this pit in two years, my kids relocated to be with my mom and I moved to a bachelor flat and learned to live off half my salary. Taking no time to grieve this loss, life had to carry on as normal, I couldn’t even see that I was living on ‘survival mode”. A year later I got promoted, this didn’t make me any happier, instead, I became more frustrated and miserable in my job. I drank a lot to numb the frustration of the fact that I was not coping and I could not dare mention that to anyone. Family had their financial expectations of me, I delivered and acted as though it didn’t dent me. I died a silent death, with a smile on my face and no one knew. To them I continued to be the strong and brave single mother who had it all figured out. I wasn’t. I was drowning. I was dying. I was in debt. I was miserable, and I had no one.
2018 was the toughest year of my life, it is the year that I fell apart. I fell apart inside, alone, behind closed doors until I could not cope anymore, I had to ask for help. At the beginning of 2018 I was still in this newly promoted position, still miserable and still earning peanuts. My kids relocated back to Cape Town to stay with their father because of my irregular working hours. We tried co-parenting with this situation, it failed. In April, he got to my place and physically assaulted me in my own home in front of our children. This sent me off in a depression mode that I did not even recognise, but even through that I fought, I didn’t grieve, I moved on and made things work for my kids.
Being depressed affected me so bad that I could not sleep sober, I drank daily, the only time I did not drink was when my kids were with me. They were my only saving grace. I ended up in a lustful relationship with a man that was in a committed relationship with someone else and on the 4th June 2018 I had a miscarriage at 6 weeks, a pregnancy I was not aware of until the day I miscarried. It was a traumatic experience. I had to undergo a procedure to have the foetus removed and I was all alone without the support of the so-called boyfriend. I had the support of my friends, but because I felt so ashamed of this pregnancy I was so scared to break down. A week later, I was back at work and everything back to normal. Life goes on, I had kids to take care of. I could not be stuck grieving for a child formed out of a lustful relationship.
On the 7th of November 2018, the father of my kids physically assaulted me again, in-front of my little sister. I was so scared because I did not know what his intentions were. I was saved by God’s grace. 2 days later, it was my son’s 6th birthday and I had to put a smile on my face in front of the kids and his family and act like I was okay. This day was officially my breaking point. After this I went into depression mode.
A week later, I could not bring myself to get up for work, at the time I was staying with my little sister and tried so hard to act okay until that day. I used to wait for her to go to work and spend the whole day in bed and in tears. That day I was scared to be alone because it felt like the father of my children could come in at any time and finish me off. I felt unsafe in my own place. I had nightmares and struggled to sleep. I stopped myself many times attempting to commit suicide. My kids were the reason I could not go through with it. On the 16th of November 2018 I got up and dragged myself to see my GP. I told her all my symptoms and knowing all the trauma I went through that year she diagnosed me with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and referred me to a psychologist.
The 21st of November 2018 was my first appointment with the psychologist, the moment I entered into his office, he asked “How are you doing?” I could not even get myself to answer that question, I just burst into an uncontrollable crying session. On the 22nd of November 2018 I was admitted to the depression clinic with a diagnosis of Major depression episode and post-traumatic stress disorder. I was lucky enough to be accompanied by my sister, I don’t know what I would have been without her. My whole world felt like it was falling apart. The strong and independent young single mother that everyone knew had fallen apart, she was broken, and she felt like a failure. She could not cope alone. She needed a head analysis and pills to get her through the day.
For 3 weeks, my daily sentence was:” Hello, my name is Thandokazi and I suffer from Depression and PTSD”.